Dear Robin

Things have been different around here since you left. As a person who knows the high and the low and has envisioned the step you took, I was greatly affected by your decision. Many seemed comforted to find out you were facing a serious chronic illness. As if suddenly it all made sense.

The People magazine with your face on the cover stared at me for too many days from its place on top of the bathroom trashcan. One day I picked it up with a huff, deciding People had retouched your eye color. They made your eyes look too blue, like a black and white movie with the colors painted in. It reminded me of that movie you were in that I can’t remember the name of.

There were a few retrospective shows, some repeat performances, yada, yada. Then with Joan and football as distractions, everybody settled back down into their relative existences.

Today I read a whole magazine about you while I waited in a really long line in Safeway.

Look, what I really want to say is this. I don’t know what was going on in your mind right before you did what you did. But, why hanging? Because you couldn’t take it back?

I don’t want to talk bad about the dead. And I’ve been feeling spiritual lately and thinking a lot about compassion and not doing harm. But I’m pissed.

Look, what I really want to say, and I hope you take it in the best way possible, is fuck you.

Fuck you for going through with it and fuck you for getting to go when I’m still here and fuck you for setting such a fucking bad example and how could you do this to your kids????

How could I do it to my kid? Have I not yet been where you were, in the space right after you cross every con off your list?

Fuck, I’m sorry, Robin. You don’t know me. You don’t owe me anything. You’re just on the receiving end of a lot of things I’m pissed about right now.

That’s about all I’ve got for now, Robin. Except, say Hi to my dad for me, will ya?

Love, T

 

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The Knowing

Aftermath of September 4th Earthquake in Chris...

Aftermath of September 4th Earthquake in Christchurch, NZ. Bridge Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About three days ago amidst the thoughts that race around inside my head there was a moment of quiet. From within the space that opened a thought appeared that felt more like a knowing. It was simple but clear.

“There’s going to be an earthquake”.

I live in Northern California and was raised in Washington state so I’ve been through earthquakes. When I was 3 I remember being in a play pen as it slid across the floor in our living room during an earthquake. Some thirty years later I was sitting in a therapy session when the ground began to roll like molten lava beneath my feet. I’ve had fearful thoughts before about the possibilities of earthquakes. I’ve tried to be mindful in my home of how I place things to avert danger if one should strike. But it’s not something I give much thought to these days, given my other concerns. I haven’t even gone so far as to anchor tall bookshelves, though I think it would be a good idea to do so. But this thought I had, it wasn’t an anxiety thought. It was a knowing.

Over the past couple of years I’ve had several experiences where I’ve suddenly known something that seemed to come from a place I don’t understand. I’ve often felt connected to people who have already passed. On many occasions I’ve felt as if my Mom, who passed away last June, occupies my body. My father was with me in presence for at least a year after his death, but it seems harder for me to find him now that eight years have passed. I’ve sat with patients who have lost loved ones and felt the spirits of their loved ones in the room. I’ve had sudden knowledge of a patient’s husband dying and then looked on the internet and found his obituary. I have a lot of people on the other side now that love and support me unconditionally and I often feel them guiding and supporting me.

So when this earthquake thought came along, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t tell anyone because I’m really sensitive to other people’s judgment. And often if I feel something intuitively I will go around from person to person seeking validation of my internal truth. And if I don’t receive it, or perceive that I don’t receive it, I judge myself harshly as crazy, psychotic, or otherwise mentally disturbed.

I considered texting the thought to myself so I would have it as evidence if there was an earthquake. I considered writing it in my journal so that I could show it to someone. I didn’t do either of these things because I forgot. A couple of days went by, no earthquake, and the thought slipped to the background of my mind until last night when my partner woke me from a deep sleep somewhere after 3 AM.

“I think we just had an earthquake,” she said, alarmed.

“Really?” I asked, still half asleep. Then immediately I thought of my knowledge earlier in the week. “Could it really have happened?”, I asked myself before falling back asleep. When I awoke later I confirmed via my phone that the earthquake had really occurred. The confirmation of this and my thought early in the week landed with a thud in the center of my belly and has been sitting there since. It’s the same place where my diagnosis of Lyme Disease sits. They are both bits of surreal information about myself that I don’t know how to digest or what to do with.

I immediately began checking the texts I send to myself to see if maybe I had texted my premonition to myself. Nothing. I started looking through scattered random papers I always have lying around to see if I’d written it down somewhere. I wanted to be able to prove to someone that I felt this earthquake coming before it happened. But as providence would have it, There was nothing. I have no way to externally validate to another person that this really happened, not even to you.

I know it happened, and somehow that is going to have to be enough.

Colts

I went to Home Depot today. As I was walking wandering through the aisles looking lost, a tall figure passed to my right. I’m saying “figure” because at first I wasn’t sure of the person’s gender. At first I thought male. But I found myself drawn to look closer.

Please don’t ask me why it matters. It matters because I’m an androgyny whore.

Her hair was dark brown, thick and long. She had it pulled back in a …., whatever you would call a masculine woman’s ponytail. Her skin was tawny and freckled. Her face was angular. I noticed small breasts just under her dark blue work shirt. Yes!

This all happened in just a brief moment. It wasn’t as if I stood gawking at her for a really long time like I wanted to. I moved on to the hardware aisle to look for some screws. Really.

I thought I would take the short way out and ask for help at Home Depot. That is hysterical now that I think about it. The dude in the orange apron told me they didn’t carry the screws I was looking for. After he walked off I found them further down the aisle.

I decided to cruise the plant section one more time (for plants). I was pushing my cart past the stacks of cement blocks and shit and guess who was out there loading bricks. I walked by her s-l-o-w-l-y  because I wanted to watch for a second. As soon as I passed her I felt as if her eyes were on my back.

I started thinking, “ohmygod, did she see me?, does she know I was checking her out? , does she know I’m a lesbian?, because I think most of the time I look like a suburban housewife….

I kept walking, pushing my cart. But then I thought, “I think I’m going to just turn around…

So I did and she was finishing gathering up her bricks. She was putting them on one of those big Home Depot carts that I avoid because I might take someone out with one. She turned to push the cart and as she did she glanced at me for longer than a second. Or at least maybe a full second. Then she went walking away from me, her tall lanky body pushing the cart. I love young butches that look like colts.

And then I started thinking, “Why don’t lesbians have anonymous sex like the boys do?” You know, like she would nod, and I would raise my eyebrows or something and that would be the signal. And really it wouldn’t have to be full on sex. Just some anonymous humping or something. Or anonymous making out.

I was driving home and thinking that after we had our anonymous make out session she could come home with me and hang some pictures or something. Or she could put my car bumper back together so that it doesn’t flap in the wind on the freeway. And you know I have some stuff that she could move around for me. Some really heavy shit.

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Butchology

Butch Appreciation Day is August 18th.  In their honor I’m reposting this from some of my early writing.

Butch markings

Butch markings

Welcome friends. I love Butches. I’ve spent a couple of decades sampling from the Butch buffet. And that makes me a Butch connoisseur. A dedicated Butchatarian. A Butchawhoreus. I’m here today to demonstrate my knowledge of these fascinating creatures.

Listen up, Butches. I adore you. And I’m going to take some liberties here. This ain’t no Women’s Studies class. So don’t get your boxers all bunched up.

Butches come in a variety of flavors. I’ve used a random sampling technique over the years and have found that Butches cannot be defined by their style of dress, or even how they behave when mating. One characteristic of appearance seems consistent throughout. Butches are obsessed with their hair. But again, don’t be fooled by haircut or style alone. You must experience a Butch in a variety of settings before you can understand her true nature.

Some say Shane wasn't "really" Butch. I don't care. I want her anyway.

Some say Shane wasn’t “really” Butch. I don’t care. I want her anyway.

I’ve been fooled by appearance on many occasions. Thinking of myself as an expert in the field, I am always surprised when this happens. I’ll see what I think is a Butch. She’s androgylicious. Her personal hygiene products exude masculinity, and when I catch her scent, I pant like a dog. She shops at the Gap, Abercrombie, Androgyny ‘R’ Us. She’s athletically inclined, owns a tool belt, maybe a strap. She may have been called “sir” a time or two. I pursue her doggedly, only to discover a camouflaged femme who desires nothing more than to be taken. It is only in recent years that I have learned to appreciate these varieties. When I began my studies I was a Pillow Princess. I wonder sometimes if over time, I’ve been infused with Butchessence. There is a secret that some straight men and Butches all over the world have known for some time. Nothing is more pleasurable than using your skill and finesse to hold a woman captive. I have watched men and Butches alike give up their souls to keep hold of their women. I understand their drive.

Bona fide Butches have given me something that many people go their whole lives without experiencing. They have allowed me to understand what it feels like to be loved. Once you’ve been loved by a Bona fide Butch, everything else becomes an unreasonable facsimile. A Bona fide Butch derives her pleasure from releasing yours. They are hopelessly romantic, and loyal to a fault because their conscience would eat them alive if they weren’t. But don’t be confused. These Butches aren’t doormats. If you treat them like a Beck and Call Butch, you will soon find yourself alone.

The Butches ego must always be respected. Resist the urge to point out your Butches weaknesses. I can’t overemphasize this point. She will never appreciate this well-intentioned behavior. When a Butch reveals her inner softness, she has bestowed you with a gift. Do not take it for granted. Bona fide butches have a gift for giving, and their counterpart femmes are skilled in receiving. There are all sorts of variations on this theme. The right combination creates a fluid symphony, but when they are imbalanced the connection is short circuited.

Beware the Butch who detests all that is male. She embodies that which she abhors, and this alone will make it impossible for your love to penetrate her. When Butches are good they are very, very good. And when they are bad, you may find yourself in need of a restraining order.

Take a breath, Butches. Remember, I’m on your side, I know you are not all like this. Smooches.

My Butch's ball cap

My Butch’s ball cap

Do you see what I just did? Butch soothing. Get good at it. It’s an essential skill for those who desire to keep a Butch. Expect to spend a lot of time honing this skill. And please, don’t ever tell your Butch what to do. I know you know exactly what she needs to do, and when, and how. You must develop the art of creating circumstances that allow her to believe that it was her idea all along. Or you will find yourself taking out the garbage while she languishes on the couch. Always allow your Butch to help you in some way, no matter how small, even if you don’t need it. This is very simplistic, and you may disagree. But a Butch fears not being needed as much as you fear not being wanted. And don’t assume all Butches fix things. Some are entirely hands off in this respect. A handy Butch is still essential. If your Butch isn’t one of them, keep an ex or two around specifically for this purpose. I’m sure your Butch won’t mind.

Oops, I did it again. I’m sorry Butches. Now, how can I make it up to you?

Armor

Some days I come home and other people’s lives are swirling through my head. I love my work. I hate despise detest my employer. I was driving into work this morning thinking just that. I was dreading today’s schedule. Three new patients, two returns, all potentially complex. First there was the woman who had become a born again Christian to heal her intense fear of possession after watching “The Exorcist”. It made me remember how I used to have to repeat “Jesus, cast thee out” to calm my own fear of being possessed in the years after “The Exorcist”. Then there was the woman seething with bitterness towards her husband, declaring that she doesn’t believe in divorce. What does that mean? That’s like saying, “I don’t believe in grocery stores”. “How about Santa?” I wanted to ask her. “Do you believe in him? The last patient of the day was someone I’ve seen for a couple of years. Her husband has Alzheimer’s.

English: Histopathogic image of senile plaques...

English: Histopathogic image of senile plaques seen in the cerebral cortex in a patient with Alzheimer disease of presenile onset. Silver impregnation. The same case as shown in a file “Alzheimer_dementia_(1)_presenile_onset.jpg”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my mother first died a few weeks ago (from Alzheimer’s) and I thought about returning to work, I thought about this patient. I was trying to figure out if I would be able to hold it together if I saw her. The appointment began fine. I was all smiles and professionalism. I noticed I was more distant that usual, as if I were watching her talk through a glass window. I heard everything she said, I offered a few observations. Then the door to the cellar inside me opened. I noticed her mouth was still moving but I wasn’t listening to her. I started crying.

Being the kind and compassionate soul that she is she immediately got off of her chair leaned toward me and hugged me. I told her my mom had passed since I’d seen her last. I apologized about ten times. I felt her genuine concern. Later I asked her what it would be like to tell her husband that it was OK to let go.

I’m sad that my Mom died alone. I want to blame my sister for this, because she didn’t tell me what was happening when I could have driven there to be with her. She’d called me a week before telling me it didn’t look good, then called the next day and said miraculously that my mom was up and seeming like herself. I had two opportunities to see my Mom prior to this before she died. I didn’t take them. I have lots of reasons. I don’t think they really matter. I think she would have liked to have seen me before she left.

There is a part of myself deep inside, very small that says, “You reap what you sow. The love you take is equal to the love you make”. My mother’s expressions of love were not initially easy to recognize. They did not come in physical affection or in words. My mom loved me, I have no doubts about that. She loved all of us. There was even a time, for a while that I felt like she loved me “best”. But for a good part of her life, it seemed like she didn’t understand how her actions affected other people. More specifically, she didn’t seem to understand how her actions affected her children. I do not know what made her the way she was, or if she was just born into the person she was meant to be. Looking back, it is hard sometimes to fathom why she did some of the things she did. In fact, my mother did me a great deal of harm.

It is odd, that lately, since her death, I have remembered more of who she was prior to the time that she did the greatest harm. And I have remembered more of who I was during that time. And I have recognized that I am still that same person. It’s almost as if my mother’s death released me back into my original self. And much of what I constructed around my original self was reactionary armor.

I told my patient today, the last one, that I think grief is a different experience when the person had Alzheimer’s. It’s a long slow departure. The more the disease progresses, the more you begin to realize that the initial signs started much earlier than you originally thought. My mother’s condition began a sharp decline about two years ago. Now, I think the first symptoms began as much as fourteen years before that.

My mother died at age 84. My son was born 10 years ago. The last time I experienced my Mom as herself was around that time. She was 74.

Last night I was thinking that I have about 20 years left on the odometer of my brain.

Porcupine Nature

Prologue

This was originally written Friday, January 20, 2012. Twenty-seven days after I wrote this, I met the woman who is now my partner. I found this on my computer the other day and was both surprised and encouraged to discover that I have found in her exactly what I was longing for when I wrote this.

~

I allowed myself to cry for a few moments today. Not silent crying, where water just flows effortlessly from your eyes. I let a few breaths escape, from the deepest part of my gut. It happened in response to a thought I had as I left work, walked into a dark parking lot, and began the drive home, to my empty life.

Something got lost along the way. This thing that got lost, I know what it is. I don’t know that it is accurate to call it “lost”, given that it is something that I’m not sure I ever had.

When I started blogging I did it purely for myself. Sort of. I wrote stuff and then threw it out there because I needed to heal. And it helped me heal. It energized me, and created momentum for more writing.

There is a certain freedom in anonymity. When I write something and post it, it releases something in me. But I want people to read what I write. If I didn’t need an audience of some kind, I would just write in a journal and call it good. But that isn’t enough for me, it’s not complete.

After I had been blogging for a while, I started inviting people to read it that I knew personally. And then I had to start censoring myself. All sorts of thing had to be left out for various reasons. And then I started to think that I couldn’t post anything unless it was relevant, or meaningful, or funny, or entertaining. I even started to get a tad resentful. Here I was throwing myself out there, naked, for people to read while they were completely clothed. I didn’t mind that the people who didn’t know me had their clothes on. It was the people who knew me personally that I was bothered by. Because I discovered that some of them seemed to take some kind of voyeuristic pleasure in knowing the intimate details of my struggles.

And then I got hurt. And when I get hurt, my porcupine nature comes out. I throw quills. I don’t discriminate either. I don’t care if I know you or not. If you are in the vicinity, you better be prepared to start meticulously plucking quills out of your face. Or your ass.

And then I abandoned my blog altogether. I thought, “Fuck that. I’m not giving myself away for free to anyone.”

I like to think I’m pretty good at being present for people. People tell me I’m a good listener, and say stuff like, “What you told me helped me”, or “Now I see that in a different way”. But when it comes to people being present for me when I am going through something, it never quite feels the same. People tend to get freaked out, they run away, or begin saying things like, “I’m sorry to hear that,” or, “I’m sorry I don’t know what to say!”  I probably scare people. Especially when I throw quills.

And so it goes that when I am hurting the most, or most in need of someone to listen, I turn to stone inside and refuse to let myself out, or to let anyone in. At times like these there is only one person I will allow near, and that person is my lover. That is, if I happen to have one. And if that lover is not able or capable, I will still attempt to get what I need from them, or sometimes I will just pretend that I’m OK with the fact that they can’t, or won’t go there.

I wish I had someone to lay in bed with, someone who knows me enough, someone I could whisper my story to, just allow it all to flow out without worrying about whether it makes sense or not, “And then, … and then”. And they would listen and look me in the eyes and see the person behind the quills. Or love me in spite of them. And when the crying was done, we would laugh, hard, until we were weak.

Her dickness

It’s the same pattern each time that I have come to dread. It always happens after we haven’t seen each other for about ten days. We can go a week and come back together and have a smooth transition. But ten days to two weeks is two long. Something shifts and then the pattern unfolds.

I can hear it in her voice. She is distant. There are no terms of endearment like we throw about easily when we are connected. Everything is blocked, I feel awkward. Her tone is sharp, and her reactions quick. When I ask her questions about how her day went, even chit-chat, she responds with minimal information. When it began happening over a year ago when we started dating, I responded by attempting to charm her out of what I thought was just a bad mood. It didn’t work. I would sense her distance and ask about it, and she would lead me around in circles with her answers. She was “fine,” or she didn’t want to talk about it. The difference in how she responds to me when we are connected vs. how she responds to me when she is distant is like night and day. When we are connected she is warm, open, responsive. When she is distant it’s like we are strangers or friends who don’t know each other well. There is no ease to our connection.

But if I comment on it, as I am prone to do, she will shut me down. She will infer that I am over reacting, or that I am being pushy, wanting something she isn’t willing to give at the moment. After it happened a few times in the beginning I began to see the pattern. Finally she told me enough about it so that I could understand what made her change so much. She would get overwhelmed with missing me, she would say, and it caused her to shut down. But its more than that, and she has vaguely admitted on a few occasions what I know is true. She is shutting me out.

Early on when it first started happening, she apologized for “being a dick”. I thought that was a perfect description. And so a few times after when I would sense she was going there, I would say, “Oh, I see you’re being a dick”. She didn’t seem to appreciate that. I just wanted to acknowledge it was happening, give it a name. Her “dickness”.

As time went on I discovered that she had the potential to be a very big dick. It was always in response to the same set of circumstances. We had been apart for two long. Each time it happened, I would try to talk her out of it, charm her out of it, flirt her out of it, and nothing would happen. Her dickness was quite persistent. It used to only happen when we were apart. But then it started bleeding into our time together. As the time for us to be together would approach, she would start being a dick. I would get hurt and then pissed about how she was acting. So then I would shut her out. By the time we actually were together, we were in a full on fight. Our weekend together would begin, and it would take at least 24 hours for her to put her dick down.

I said to her once, during the middle of one of these periods where we were fighting, if it had occurred to her that if we could just fuck as soon as we saw each other, we would probably do better. Not being able to be together produces tension that quickly dissipates when we fuck like the true animals that we are. But she couldn’t even put down her dick long enough to do that.

And so it started this week, two days ago. Its been almost two weeks since we have seen each other. We had been doing great at remaining connected over the phone. Then “Bam”, out of nowhere, she starts being a dick. She shuts down. She’s “fine”. I try not to react. I try to stay open and remain loving. I produce some chit-chat. I get frustrated and tell her how hard it is for me when she acts like this. She responds by saying, “Oh, now I’m the bad guy,” which infuriates me further. I tell her I didn’t say that, but it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t hear a word I’ve said. She’s too busy closing herself off. If I comment on that aspect of it, she’ll find a way to deny it, turn it around into something I’m just over reacting to. I can tell her it hurts me, she’ll say, “I’m sorry”. It doesn’t help. I know that she believes I should not react to her reacting. She thinks I’m over personalizing. I don’t think she has any idea what it feels like to suddenly feel as if you have been emotionally cut off. Of course if I said that she would say, “That’s not what I’m doing”.

So today I’m pissed about it. So I shut her out. She probably doesn’t know this. She’s just over there 80 miles away doing her thing, being all forlorn or whatever. Meanwhile, I had a shitty day yesterday and an even worse one today. I went back to work last week after being on medical leave and I’ve been trying really hard not to let my job suck the life out of me. I’ve been trying to pick and choose where I put my energy. But then the people come in with their stories, and they infiltrate me, and become mine. The elderly man sobbing about being sexually abused as a child. The elderly woman who is breaking under the stress of trying to care for her bed ridden mother. The depressed, the irritable, the detritus of everyone’s lives, seeping into me. It’s like invisible quicksand. I don’t know it’s there until I’m drowning in it and I can’t get out. And the anniversary of my father’s death is this weekend. And I miss my love, so much, all the time, because when we are together and connected, we really connect. And I’m lost without her. So when she starts being a dick I feel abandoned. And I can’t tell her about it because she’ll tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way. She will minimize the effect her dickness has on me.

I got so worked up about it last night that I couldn’t sleep. For most of the night, just tossing and turning. I was so exhausted all day, and missing her but refusing to txt or call her because I’m shutting her out because I’m hurt. And we are supposed to be together this weekend and I want to say, “Forget it, because I know where this is going to go. I’m hurt and pissed, and reacting, and you will be too, and its going to be one of those rough re-entry’s, and I don’t have it in me to go through that right now, so I’d rather not see you at all”.

On the way home from work I got a speeding ticket. I silently cried all the way home, snot running down my face. My son was in the back seat and I didn’t want to answer any questions about why I was crying. I was crying because I miss her. And I’m super tired, and I didn’t need a fucking ticket to top it off. And I was crying because I couldn’t call her and tell her about it because I couldn’t risk that she would be distant, or that the conversation would go like it did yesterday.

And we will come together at some point, I know we will because we always do. Our connection is strong and sinewy. I love her more than I’ve ever loved anyone.